Government officials across Florida inadvertently could be breaking state public-records laws by simply using their social media accounts, a USA TODAY Network investigation found.
by Treasure Coast News’ Nicole Rodriguez
December 16, 2016
Tweeting about government business and posting to Facebook or Instagram — using either official or personal accounts, regardless of having a disclaimer — without keeping a record of the postings violates Florida’s open-records laws, legal experts say. So is deleting posts without archiving copies.
Even so, there are more subtle ways officials might unknowingly break the law, and even violate constituents’ First Amendment rights, the investigation found.
Responding on social media to comments or questions about government business or an issue before a government body, without archiving the interaction, is a way an elected official can violate the law, explained Ryan Butler, an assistant state attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit, which serves Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties.
Calling a Facebook page “personal” makes no difference, he said.
“A disclaimer will not exempt anything from public-records disclosure,” Butler said. “It’s not the disclaimer that counts. It’s the content of the communication.” [READ MORE]